Monday, May 12, 2014

Dandelion - The Yellows of Spring - 3

     Dente de lions.  That's the French name for the most plentiful yellow wildflower in the Midwest and southern Michigan has waving fields of Dandelions and Mustards.  The word Dente de lion means the "tooth of the lion" because of the lobed and jagged basal toothlike leaves that range from 2-16 inches in length.  Each slender stalk bears a single flower, which fruits with its own parachute for flight.  When cut with high powered mowers they shatter easily and the fruit sails upward 10-12 miles as long as the humidity is below 70%.  Above 70 the fruit falls back to earth sometimes thousands of miles from its origination.
     The dandelion is a favorite of children who love to blow the seed heads or bring mom one of spring's first bouquets, but to husbands the sight of just one dandelion flower in their weedless lawn - well they become beasts.  Dandelions can bloom anytime between April and November, but when seen the bright yellow heads can be seen swaying on breezes and releasing their fruit.  Warm spring days children and adults like to walk or run barefoot across lawns, but beware of honeybees collecting nectar.
     Dandelions are similar to Bananas.  Both are yellow and its truly amazing how every conceivable part of dandelions and Bananas serve a useful function today.  Nothing is wasted and all make many valuable and delicious food items.  The leaves of dandelions plants attract gourmet cooks from around the world.  Tender young leaves are worth more than $3.50 per pound because the greens are high in vitamins, A, B, and D including minerals.  The leaves of bananas when ground and mixed with cotton makes fine stationery.
     Englishmen and Irishmen love to eat dandelion greens in salads and dandelion wine is a spring tonic used to purify the body.  I bet it was better tasting than what my grandmother taught my mother when I was young.  At the first hint of spring out came the bottles of cod liver oil or Watkin's Beef, Iron and Wine tonic.  I hated that tablespoon full each morning, but then again I hated spinach, too, but it sure isn't as unsavory as broccoli.  Yuck!
     When wine is made from the flowers it is a light yellow color with a pungent odor, but when the entire plant is brewed it makes a palatable beer.  That's if no herbicides were applied anywhere near the plant.  The rites of spring begin in earnest with the first flowering dandelions, but in some parts of the world, the dandelions are steeped in traditional folklore and superstitions.
     In Silesia, which is a district of northwestern Czechoslovakia and southwest Poland, the people gather on Midsummer's Eve to collect dandelions to keep witches out  of their communities.  We have them in America, too.  In the United States we have many warlocks running around with poisonous spray guns to kill dandelions sprouting up from crack in driveways.  In another instance I met private gardener who quit his job because the homeowner, his boss, decided not to follow application instructions and applied triple strong herbicide to kill dandelions beside his home and killed 24" diameter oak trees and gave some stubborn dandelions a stronger dose on driveway cracks and then disaster struck.  A severe thunderstorm caused the herbicide to leach and run down to his 60-acre lake killing all his beautiful flowering water lillys and all lower form of life; frogs, minnows, crayfish leaving the lake barren.   Never use a herbicide even if there is a chance it'll rain.
     Dandelions are an amazing flower.  You don't need to listen to a TV meteorologist to forecast the weather.  If dandelions open in the morning sun it means "fair" weather.  Remaining partially closed means "chance" of rain and if buds remain closed by mid-morning it will "definitely" rain so bring rain gear or umbrella.
     You know you can tell if a couple is married just by studying their habits in a car or truck.  Before marriage and after for about a year they will snuggle close.  When the honeymoon is over they sit apart, but did you know that in America a young woman can predict her future by blowing the fluffy seeds off a dandelion stem.  Legend has it that one deep of breath and blowing all the seeds away indicates she'll never have to file for a divorce.  She can also measure the depth of her sweetheart's thoughts about her, by the amount of remaining fluff left.
     Without a wrist watch any person old enough to read can tell the time of day with a fluffy dandelion head.  The correct hour will be the number of puffs it takes to blow all the seeds away.  Give those sunny dandelions a break and enjoy the fields of swaying yellow flowers on a breeze, but where a dust mask when cutting mass fluffy seed heads.  If the honeybees can love them so, too, can you.  The mustards, marsh marigolds, trilliums and many colors of violets have replaced the grays, tans and white snow.  Enjoy the yellows of Spring  2014.

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